Neither the people, the nationalities or even Nigeria, as a corporate entity, from time immemorial, ever lack men who in all ramifications, or by any stretches of definitions, can be called MEN. Not even so lacking from the opposite sex. The pair of Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the late mother of the late Afro King, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Christian Soyinka, mother of Prof. Wole Soyinka, readily flash through one’s cerebrum here. The gallant exploits of these valiant men, and women, some from the pre-history period, were all allowed to go largely unrecorded and uncelebrated. This is not taking into cognizance the exploits of folk tales Moremi of Ile Ife, Queen Amina of Zaria, or the violent and ill-tempered inconsiderate Okwonkwo portrayed in Chinua Achebe’s classics, Things Fall Apart.
These men, and women with near-god(dess) ability abound, almost in superfluous quantity but are largely buried in dingy corners of the country. The types of men the country needed to drive her industrial revolution, technological growth, sports advancement and even political culture refinement. But they are sadly buried in some obscured, almost unrecognisable underneath in different parts of the country. At Ariara market in Aba, Abia State, they are there. At Lugbe market in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, there you find them. At Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos metropolis, in the dilapidated classrooms in the rural areas, there you find them in droves. But suffering from a system that recognizes not industry, merit or forthright, but thrives in debilitating nepotic patronage.
Such men (women) as the descriptively narrative line, Awa ti a je akoni, je meje, in late David Orowale Fagunwa’s fairy tale classic, Ogboju Ode Ninu Irunmole, a tale of a trip into a mystery forest written in 1936 seems the missing link in solving many the developmental issues in the country today. The Akonis – valiant men of valor, gallant warriors, apparently are what the nation is lacking now. Be it in academics, in corporate world, in sports, or even in politics. The stark reality is that charlatans have taken over the developmental wheels of the nation.
The debate need not be dragged unnecessarily long. Neither do we need to hide under nebulosity concepts. It is clear that at this point in our National life, Nigeria as a country need men and women of ‘valor, gallant warriors’ to navigate through the dark alley that is our country. Gallant warriors, not in the mode of the precocious ‘dividers’ or the ‘uniters’ spat between the Aso Rock and Ota Farms. The side snigger by the man we all called “Kogi” is most divisively unnecessary. The heart of the Nation is bleeding profusely, and urgently a care giver is needed to stop further hemorrhage, otherwise, the clouds not foreseen may descend.
How do I profile the gallant warrior, man of valor, an ‘Akoni’, as the Yoruba people will call one? Late D. O. Fagunwa presented us with crystal specimen. In his evergreen classic, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole, he gave us profiles of seven gallant warriors. All men, who were men! Prof. Wole Soyinka later gave us the English version as A Forest of A Thousand Demons. David Orowale Fagunwa was born in 1903. That was a time when men of valor, gallant warriors, dotted the landscape. But not anymore now. They have simply gone missing!
The Fagunwa’s seven Akonis might be hunter-warriors, since that’s what exigencies of the time dictated. But they were all fabulously imbued with native intelligence and tact. Today’s akoni now needs more of intellectual power and native intelligence with tact combined to drive the nation.
This nation surely need men. Men with ‘long fuse’. ‘Deep’ in thinking. Long suffering under trials and tribulations. Such men of valor are rare, but not undiscoverable within the shores or in diaspora.
The nation have had some in the past, now fast becoming distant past. We have had them driven the nationalism self-government movements. We have had them navigate the dark days of the internal civil war, but not anymore after.
This hypothetical men of valor, however do not refer to the political players alone, less we miss the real value of their purpose. In economy we need them. In cultural renaissance, they are indispensable. And so also in moral firmament, that is religion.
I have looked around, long enough. I have watched some charlatans, pretenders, long enough to come to terms with the gapping lacuna in whole chancery of men. Not an ounce of valor or gallantry in many of them. Charlatans all over. They abounds in politics. In business. In corporate world. In arts. In academics. Worst, in the unorganized unskilled and artisan clime. The few oases in the deserts are either blurred, unseen or totally drowned in the pool. Their faces simply undecipherable in the midst of rapacious human vultures, eager to punch on any carcass. Feasting on the soul of the society becomes a natural allure. No institution is sacred to them. No groove, nor shrine, is sacred to trample upon. The adage: the end justify the means, is their Holy Grail. With conscience obsolete and dead, they left marks of ruins and decadence upon the sands they marched on.
We had Akoni who blatantly told the bewildered nation that ‘the best candidate may not win this election’. So also is the one that ‘Insha Allah annulled the freest and best election ever conducted, arguably in the continent of Africa. But he failed the litmus test of an akoni in the face of a perceived subtle threats and intimidation. Not once, not twice, he failed repeatedly when providence placed on his huge shoulders simple test of an akoni.
Blind and untamed propensity to acquire properties, coveting commonwealth into ones, are never of an akoni’s traits. An akoni looks after a commonwealth for the good of all.
The ones that ran down the banks, destroying people’s life savings and investments, to live a high valuating lives were pure traitors, never an akoni. Building personal empires, living a life of opulence, all on the sweat of the society do not portray a native intelligence, nor a deep thinking soul. It only exhibits lugubrious state of soul. They dots the landscape, flaunting the shameless acquisitions all over the place. Yet the people live in total want and squalor.
Today, I would not talk about the political class. The rotten class who compete with pigs to splash mud and spread diseases. Better forgotten now. A lost class by all studies. We talk about the common men who are not common. Men who could be called and relied upon. Men who are men!
They still abound. Sadly, not among the elites. Not among the political class. And more, not among the prophets, pastors, nor imams!
I was in Esa Oke a few days ago. I encountered some seven akonis. Though, unlike the Fagunwa’s seven akoni, awa ti a je akoni, je meje, (we the gallant warriors, men of valor were seven), these akonis were six men and one woman.
There they sat, stone faced, lacking any form of facial expressions, nor betraying any dint of emotions. They offered me a seat. An old wooden chair facing a decrepit wooden table. Immediately I sat on the wooden stool and resting my Abraham Lincoln stocky frame on the old desk, the scary details of late D. O. Fagunwa’s fairy-tale classics, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole came flooding back through my mind. Iconic Prof. Wole Soyinka had made the classic novel more classical by his translation: A Forest of A Thousand Demons.
As an initiate myself, I have dinned and wined with the Irunmoles before. After all, my late father was an Officer of Igbo Igbale, the scared groove of Egungun, where the dead descend to meet the living. And more even at that the other Igbo Igbale in the deep forest shared boundary with my father’s cocoa plantation in the dreaded Igbo Orisa. I am an omo-awo. I ought not to be shaken by any Irunmole, but not these gallant warriors, men, women of great valour. Unlike the Fagunwa’s warriors, these ones were six men and one woman.
These men and woman brushed aside all subtle threats, cajoling, entrapment. They faced the task giving them single-minded with total conviction. They did not display signs of any ‘short fuse’, like the Sage, were ‘deep’. They delivered conclusively. The nation’s political thermometer is suffering. The umpire, the care giver if floundering. All what we need is a determined and focused akoni of the caliber of these men. Their profiles, pedigrees were not that intimidating. No Professor Jaga Jaga nor Professor Wuru Wuru among them. An Obafemi Awolowo University retired mathematics don, two secondary schools also retired, but all evidently not tired, a political scientist of finest pedigree, a Civil Servant, a clean looking, virtuous woman. All morally upright, rigidly sticking to hardcore principle, and dogged commitment to merit. They displayed these hallmarks, the traits of an akoni that is most uncommon among our national elites.
The Ibadan people have a simple, but direct succession system. I was much fascinated to the Ibadan Model, while growing up politically. I can recollect discussing it at length, with that most cerebral leviathan politician, late Professor Femi Agbalajobi, who also found some attraction in the Model. He urged me to put my thoughts into writing. I did. He took it to our Baba, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, who also seemed to like it and was said to be considering the model for adoption in his political family in Lagos before the abortion of the Third Republic and the subsequent unfortunate events that led to the fall of the political empire. But the Kajola – Ila Orangun migrants in Esa Oke – model seems even more attractive enough for recommendation for the selections of candidates for various positions across sectors in the country.
While the Akonis went to work, working assiduously, however the Imodoyes amongst them were up to another game plan.
The ravenous hawks, the Jackals weren’t sleeping, and the ravenous Jackals were soon unleashed.
To be continued next week. Sty tunned.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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